Craig Kennedy

Created by Arthur B. Reeve
(1880-1936)

“There is a distinct place for science in the detection of crime… I am going to apply science to the detection of crime, the same sort of methods by which you chase out the presence of a chemical, or run an unknown germ to earth.”
— from The Silent Bullet

CRAIG KENNEDY was known as “The Scientific Detective” and “The American Sherlock Holmes,” and for a while, his popularity rivaled that of The Great Detective, particularly on this side of the pond, where sales of there were two million copies sold in the United States alone.

They bore some striking similarities. They were both always the smartest guys in the room, and both were also far ahead of the game, presenting “futuristic” forensic techniques and equipment that in many cases would soon enough become established police methods — but at the time probably seemed way out there for the average reader. In fact, some have suggested that Kennedy’s extensive use of such cutting-edge hoo-hah and gadgets (Submarines! Dictaphones! Gyroscopes! X-rays! Lie detectors! Portable seismographs! Death rays! Psychology! Telephones!) puts him as much in the science fiction camp as in the crime fiction camp, and more than one genre historian has tried to credit Reeve’s popularity with the eventual rise of Hugo Gernsback and the first American science fiction magazines. It should be noted that although there was a Craig Kennedy reprint (and one original story) in every issue of Gernback’s short-lived Scientific Detective Monthly (1930) and a banner proclaimed Reeve the “Editorial Commissioner” on every cover, it wasn’t truly a sci-fi mag, but one dedicated to detectives who use science to fight crime.

Still, it was heady stuff for the era, and Reeve was no fool. He gave the people plenty of what they wanted. Kennedy appeared in over eighty short stories and novellas, mostly in Cosmopolitan and Heart’s Magazine and various collections, as well as in numerous novels. He also appeared in film, television and even a few short-lived comic strips, and even underwent a comeback of sorts in the pulps.

Clean-cut, tall and handsome, the pipe-smoking Kennedy was a chemistry and science professor at Columbia University in New York City, and while he may have thought of himself as more of a criminologist than a private eye, he was very much open for business, willing to accept “consulting fees” for his investigations. Like Holmes, he never suffered from an abundance of humility — he was more than ready to expound on his own brilliance, in often excruciating detail. But the similarities don’t stop there. Kennedy shared an apartment with another “confirmed” bachelor, who just happened to chronicle his adventures, à la Watson. An old college chum and ace reporter for The Star,  Walter Jameson, is initially assigned by his editor to write an article describing an “average month” for the scientific detective, but he sorta sticks around for the rest of the series. Naturally, Kennedy also has a source/foil on the police force: Inspector Barney O’Connor of the NYPD, and his own arch enemy, a Moriarty-like figure known as “The Clutching Hand.”

But make no mistake: when the game was a-foot, Kennedy (like Holmes) wasn’t afraid to leave the classroom or the stuffy lecture hall, and do his own legwork, following suspects, donning disguises and even occasionally slugging it out with the bad guys. And the game was frequently a-foot — Reeve made sure things zipped along, his plotting was strong and his conclusions were top notch.

Kennedy’s fame was fleeting, however. “The very reason for Reeve’s popularity in the years before World War I, his topicality, dates the stories and makes him a largely forgotten author,” suggests J. Randolph Cox’s in the Summer 2018 edition of  Old-Time Detection.

My theory? Despite the pretty much universal respect Reeve gets from mystery scholars and critics, the man was not a great stylist — consider this clumsy little info dump from one of his early, pre-pulp stories:

This twelfth series is interesting. So far only radium, thorium, and uranium are generally known. We know that the radio-active elements are constantly breaking down, and one often hears uranium, for instance, called the ‘parent’ of radium. Radium also gives off an emanation, and among its products is helium, quite another element. Thus the transmutation of matter is, within certain bounds, well known to-day to all scientists like yourself, Professor Kennedy. It has even been rumored but never proved that copper has been transformed into lithium—both members of the hydrogen-gold group, you will observe. Copper to lithium is going backward, so to speak. It has remained for me to devise this protodyne apparatus by which I can reverse that process of decay and go forward in the table,—can change lithium into copper and copper into gold. I can create and destroy matter by protodyne.

Zzzzzzzzz… maybe this is why Kennedy is today now more of a trivia question than anything. For some modern readers trying to wade through the morass of paragraphs like that, I’m sure the biggest mystery might be “Huh? Why was he EVER popular?”

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Born in N.Y. the author graduated from Princeton University in 1903 and went on to study law, but became a journalist. Inspired by a series of articles he wrote regarding science and detection, he created Craig Kennedy. During WWI he helped establish a spy and crime detection lab in Washington, D.C.

UNDER OATH

  • “It is easy to understand why The Silent Bullet caused a sensation on both sides of the Atlantic in the 1910’s. It paints an electrifying picture of the march of science… (it) is still exhilarating, with its picture of advanced technology opening limitless frontiers for humankind. Many of its technological images are still relevant; in fact, much of the book seems more plausible today than it might have seemed to more skeptical readers back then. Reeve’s book is a climax of a whole tradition of scientific detective stories.”
    — Mike Grost on gadetection

SHORT STORIES & NOVELLAS

  • “The Case of Helen Bond” (December 1910, Cosmopolitan; aka “The Scientific Cracksman)
  • “The Silent Bullet” (January 1911, Cosmopolitan)
  • “The Bacteriological Detective” (February 1911, Cosmopolitan)
  • “The Deadly Tube” (March 1911, Cosmopolitan)
  • “The Seismograph Adventure” (April 1911, Cosmopolitan)
  • “The Diamond Maker” (May 1911, Cosmopolitan)
  • “The Azure Ring” (June 1911, Cosmopolitan) 
  • “Spontaneous Combustion” (July 1911, Cosmopolitan)
  • “The Terror in the Air” (August 1911, Cosmopolitan)
  • “The Black Hand” (September 1911 , Cosmopolitan)
  • “The Artificial Paradise” (October 1911, Cosmopolitan)
  • “The Steel Door” (November 1911, Cosmopolitan)
  • “The Sand-Hog” (December 1911, Cosmopolitan)
  • “The Bacillus of Death” (January 1912, Cosmopolitan)
  • “The Master Counterfeiter” (February 1912, Cosmopolitan)
  • “The Firebug” (March 1912, Cosmopolitan)
  • “The Yeggman” (April 1912, Cosmopolitan; also published separately in 1914)
  • “The Poisoned Pen” (May 1912, Cosmopolitan)
  • “The White Slave” (June 1912, Cosmopolitan)
  • “The Forger” (July 1912, Cosmopolitan)
  • “The Unofficial Spy” (August 1912, Cosmopolitan)
  • “The Smuggler” (September 1912, Cosmopolitan
  • “The Invisible Ray” (October 1912, Cosmopolitan)
  • “The Campaign Grafter” (November 1912, Hearst’s Magazine)
  • “The Vampire” (February 1913, Hearst’s Magazine)
  • The Phantom Circuit” (June 1913, Cosmopolitan; also published separately in 1914)
  • “The Death House” (September 1913, Cosmopolitan; also published separately in 1914)
  • “The Confidence King” (1913, The Poisoned Pen)
  • “The Germ of Death” (1913, The Poisoned Pen)
  • “The Devil Worshippers” (October 1914, Cosmopolitan)
  • “The Diamond Queen” (January 1915, Cosmopolitan)
  • “The Sixth Sense” (May 1915, Cosmopolitan)
  • “The Blood Crystals” (1915, The Exploits of Elaine)
  • “The Clutching Hand” (1915, The Exploits of Elaine)
  • “The Death Ray” (1915, The Exploits of Elaine)
  • “The Double Trap” (1915, The Exploits of Elaine)
  • “The Frozen Safe” (1915, The Exploits of Elaine)
  • “The Hidden Voice” (1915, The Exploits of Elaine)
  • The Hour of Three” (1915, The Exploits of Elaine)
  • “The Life Current” (1915, The Exploits of Elaine)
  • “The Poisoned Room” (1915, The Exploits of Elaine)
  • “The Reckoning” (1915, The Exploits of Elaine)
  • “The Twilight Sleep” (1915, The Exploits of Elaine)
  • “The Vanishing Jewels” (1915, The Exploits of Elaine)
  • “The Cryptic Ring” (1916, The Romance of Elaine)
  • “The Conspirators” (1916, The Romance of Elaine)
  • “The Death Cloud” (1916, The Romance of Elaine)
  • “The Disappearing Helmets” (1916, The Romance of Elaine)
  • “The Ear in the Wall” (1916, The Romance of Elaine)
  • “The Flash” (1916, The Romance of Elaine)
  • “The Gray Friar” (1916, The Romance of Elaine; aka “The Grey Friar”)
  • “The Life Chain” (1916, The Romance of Elaine)
  • “The Lost Torpedo” (1916, The Romance of Elaine)
  • “The Love Meter” (1916, The Romance of Elaine)
  • “The Saving Circles” (1916, The Romance of Elaine)
  • “The Searchlight Gun” (1916, The Romance of Elaine)
  • “The Serpent Sign” (1916, The Romance of Elaine)
  • “The Shadows of War” (1916, The Romance of Elaine)
  • “The Submarine Harbor” (1916, The Romance of Elaine)
  • “The Tell-Tale Heart” (1916, The Romance of Elaine)
  • “The Triumph of Elaine” (1916, The Romance of Elaine)
  • “The Vanishing Man” (1916, The Romance of Elaine)
  • “The Vengeance of Wu Fang” (1916, The Romance of Elaine)
  • “The Watching Eye” (1916, The Romance of Elaine)
  • “The Wireless Detective” (1916, The Romance of Elaine)
  • “The Opium Smugglers” (1916, The Romance of Elaine)
  • “Land Poor” (May 16, 1925, The Country Gentleman)
  • “The Cancer House” (1916, The Social Gangster)
  • “The Absolute Zero” (1916, The Social Gangster)
  • “The Dancing Blackmailer” (1916, The Social Gangster)
  • “The Demon Engine” (1916, The Social Gangster)
  • “The Evil Eye” (1916, The Social Gangster)
  • “A Master Poison” (1916, The Social Gangster)
  • “A Race-Course Mystery” (1916, The Social Gangster)
  • “To Save Gloria” (1916, The Social Gangster)
  • “Under the Rays” (1916, The Social Gangster)
  • “The Voodoo Mystery” (1916, The Social Gangster)
  • “The Beauty Mask” (1917, The Treasure-Train)
  • “The Gun-Runner” (1917, The Treasure-Train)
  • “The Mystic Poisoner” (1917, The Treasure-Train)
  • “The Phantom Destroyer” (1917, The Treasure-Train)
  • “The Rubber Dagger” (1917, The Treasure-Train)
  • “The Soul-Analysis” (1917, The Treasure-Train)
  • “The Submarine Mine” (1917, The Treasure-Train)
  • “The Sunken Treasure” (1917, The Treasure-Train)
  • “The Treasure-Train” (1917, The Treasure-Train)
  • “The Truth-Detector” (1917, The Treasure-Train)
  • “The Vital Principle” (1917, The Treasure-Train)
  • “Craig Kennedy and Film School Tragedy: Part One” (July 16, 1918, Detective Story Magazine)
  • “Craig Kennedy and Film School Tragedy: Part Two” (July 23, 1918, Detective Story Magazine)
  • “Craig Kennedy and Film School Tragedy: Part Three” (July 30, 1918, Detective Story Magazine)
  • “Craig Kennedy and Film School Tragedy: Part Four” (August 6, 1918, Detective Story Magazine)
  • “The Sinister Shadow” (August 27, 1918, Detective Story Magazine)
  • “The Soul Scar: Part One” (September 17, 1918, Detective Story Magazine)
  • “The Soul Scar: Part Two” (September 24, 1918, Detective Story Magazine)
  • “The Soul Scar: Part Three” (October 1, 1918, Detective Story Magazine)
  • “The Soul Scar: Part Four” (October 6, 1918, Detective Story Magazine)
  • “The Bitter Water” (1918, The Panama Plot)
  • “The Black Cross” (1918, The Panama Plot)
  • “The Black Diamond” (1918, The Panama Plot)
  • “The Door of Death” (1918, The Panama Plot)
  • “The Green Death” (1918, The Panama Plot)
  • “The Love Philter” (1918, The Panama Plot)
  • “The Nitrate King” (1918, The Panama Plot)
  • “The Panama Plot” (1918, The Panama Plot)
  • “The Phantom Parasite” (1918, The Panama Plot)
  • “The Psychic Scar” (1918, The Panama Plot)
  • “Dead Men Tell Tales” (October 1923, Everybody’s Magazine)
  • “Craig Kennedy’s Greatest Mystery” (July 12, 1924, Detective Story Magazine)
  • “The Boulevard of Bunk” (1924, Craig Kennedy Listens In)
  • “The Brass Key” (1924, Craig Kennedy Listens In)
  • “Buccaneers of Booze” (1924, Craig Kennedy Listens In)
  • “Buried Alive” (1924, Craig Kennedy Listens In)
  • “The Soul Merchant” (1924, Craig Kennedy Listens In)
  • “The Wireless Phantom” (1924, Craig Kennedy Listens In)
  • “The Barn Burneth” (1925, Craig Kennedy on the Farm)
  • “Frozen Paper” (1925, Craig Kennedy on the Farm)
  • “Dead Beets” (1925, Craig Kennedy on the Farm)
  • “The Gas Tramp” (1925, Craig Kennedy on the Farm)
  • “Harvest Home” (1925, Craig Kennedy on the Farm)
  • “The Hypocrites” (1925, Craig Kennedy on the Farm)
  • “The Long Arm” (1925, Craig Kennedy on the Farm)
  • “The Orchid” (1925, Craig Kennedy on the Farm)
  • “Woman’s Wiles” (1925, Craig Kennedy on the Farm)
  • “Craig Kennedy and the Compass: East” (1925, The Fourteen Points)
  • “Craig Kennedy and the Compass: North” (1925, The Fourteen Points)
  • “Craig Kennedy and the Compass: South” (1925, The Fourteen Points)
  • “Craig Kennedy and the Compass: West” (1925, The Fourteen Points)
  • “Craig Kennedy and the Elements: Air” (1925, The Fourteen Points)
  • “Craig Kennedy and the Elements: Earth” (1925, The Fourteen Points)
  • “Craig Kennedy and the Elements: Fire” (1925, The Fourteen Points)
  • “Craig Kennedy and the Elements: Water” (1925, The Fourteen Points)
  • “Craig Kennedy and the Senses: Hearing” (1925, The Fourteen Points)
  • “Craig Kennedy and the Senses: Sight” (1925, The Fourteen Points)
  • “Craig Kennedy and the Senses: Smell” (1925, The Fourteen Points)
  • “Craig Kennedy and the Senses: Taste” (1925, The Fourteen Points)
  • “Craig Kennedy and the Senses: Touch” (1925, The Fourteen Points)
  • “The Cruise of the Sea Scouts (1925, The Boy Scout’s Craig Kennedy)
  • “Deep-Sea Treasure (1925, The Boy Scout’s Craig Kennedy)
  • “The Honor System” (1925, The Boy Scout’s Craig Kennedy)
  • “The Polar Flight of the ZR-10”  (1925, The Boy Scout’s Craig Kennedy)
  • “The Radio Detective”  (1925, The Boy Scout’s Craig Kennedy)
  • “A Son of the North Woods” ( (1925, The Boy Scout’s Craig Kennedy)
  • “Craig Kennedy Gets His Girl” (Jul 7 1928, Detective Story Magazine)
  • “Craig Kennedy Gets the Dope” (July 28, 1928, Detective Story Magazine)
  • “Craig Kennedy and the Model” (August 11, 1928, Detective Story Magazine)
  • “Craig Kennedy and the Ghost” (August 25, 1928, Detective Story Magazine)
  • “Blood Will Tell” (September 22, 1928, Detective Fiction Weekly)
  • “Radiant Doom” (October 6, 1928, Detective Fiction Weekly)
  • “The Dead Line” (October 13, 1928, Detective Fiction Weekly)
  • “Craig Kennedy Splits Hairs” (Oct 27 1928, Detective Fiction Weekly
  • “Craig Kennedy’s Christmas Case” (December 22, 1928, Detective Fiction Weekly)
  • “The Mystery Ray: Part One” (February 23 1929, Detective Fiction Weekly)
  • “The Mystery Ray: Part Two” (March 2, 1929, Detective Fiction Weekly)
  • “The Mystery Ray: Part Three” (March 9, 1929, Detective Fiction Weekly)
  • “The Beauty Wrecker” (March 16, 1929, Detective Fiction Weekly)
  • “Poisoned Music” (August 31 1929, Detective Fiction Weekly)
  • “The Crime Student” (September 7, 1929, Detective Fiction Weekly)
  • “The Mystery of the Phantom Voice” (November #2, 1929, Clues)
  • “The House of a Hundred Murders” (December #1 1929, Clues)
  • “The Mystery of the Bulawayo Diamond” (January 1930, Scientific Detective Monthly)
  • “The Mystery in the Mire” (January #1, 1930, Clues)
  • “Death in the Cards” (May 1932, Complete Detective Novel Magazine)
  • “The Junior League Murder” (June 1932, Complete Detective Novel Magazine)
  • “Murder Under the Southern Cross” (July 1932, Complete Detective Novel Magazine)
  • “Murder Never Dies” (August 1932, Complete Detective Novel Magazine)
  • “Murder in the Tourist Camp” (December 1932, Complete Detective Novel Magazine)
  • “The Golden Grave” (October 1, 1933, Dime Detective)
  • “The Inca Dagger” (January 1934, Black Book Detective Magazine)
  • “Murder at Night ” (August 1934, Thrilling Detective)
  • “Craig Kennedy Returns” (November 1934, Popular Detective; with A.T. Locke)
  • “Enter Craig Kennedy!” (December 1934, Popular Detective; with A.T. Locke)
  • “Craig Kennedy Walks with Death” (January 1935, Popular Detective; with A.T. Locke)
  • “Craig Kennedy Strikes Back” (February 1935, Popular Detective; with A.T. Locke)
  • “Craig Kennedy’s Strangest Case” (April 1935, Popular Detective; with A.T. Locke)
  • “Craig Kennedy Intervenes” (May 1935, Popular Detective; with A.T. Locke)
  • “The Navy Murder Case” (June 1935, Popular Detective; with A.T. Locke)
  • “The Devil’s Brew” (1935, Enter Craig Kennedy)
  • “The Iron Ghost” (1935, Enter Craig Kennedy)
  • “Kennedy Strikes Back” (1935, Enter Craig Kennedy)
  • “Kennedy Walks with Death” (1935, Enter Craig Kennedy)

COLLECTIONS

  • The Silent Bullet (1912; aka “The Black Hand”)
  • The Poisoned Pen (1913)
  • The Dream Doctor (1914)
  • The Exploits of Elaine (1915)
  • The Romance of Elaine (1916)
  • The Triumph of Elaine (1916)
  • The Social Gangster (1916)
  • The Treasure-Train (1917)
  • The Panama Plot (1918)
  • Craig Kennedy Listens In (1923)
  • The Fourteen Points (1925)
  • Craig Kennedy on the Farm (1925)
  • The Boy Scout’s Craig Kennedy (1925)
  • Craig Kennedy on the Farm (1925)
  • The Fourteen Points (1925)
  • Enter Craig Kennedy (1935)

NOVELS

  • The Ear in the Wall (1916)
  • The Adventuress (1917)
  • The Soul Scar (1919)
  • The Master Mystery (1919; novelization of film)
  • The Mystery Mind (1921; novelization of film)
  • The Film Mystery (1921)
  • Atavar, the Dream Dancer (1924)
  • The Mysterious Birth of Stephen Yates (1925)
  • Pandora (1926)
  • The Radio Detective (1926)
  • The Kidnap Club (April 1932, Complete Detective Novel Magazine)
  • Murder in Green (September 1932, Complete Detective Novel Magazine)
  • The Electric War (August/September 1933, Complete Detective Novel Magazine)
  • The Clutching Hand (1934)
  • The Stars Scream Murder (1936)

FILMS

  • THE EXPLOITS OF ELAINE
    (1915, Eclectic)
    Silent, 14-part serial
    Based on the collection by Arthur B. Reeves
    Screenplay by Charles W. Goddard, George B. Seitz
    Starring Arnold Daly as CRAIG KENNEDY
    With Creighton Hale as Walter Jameson
    Also starring Pearl White, Sheldon Lewis, Raymond Owens
  • LOS MISTERIOS DE BARCELONA
    (1915, Hispano)
    Silent (Spanish), Serial
    Based on the collection by Arthur B. Reeves
    Screenplay by Antonio Altadill
    Directed by Alberto Marro
  • THE NEW EXPLOITS OF ELAINE
    aka “The Romance of Elaine”

    (1915, Eclectic)
    Silent, 12-part serial
    Based on The Romance of Elaine by Arthur B. Reeve
    Screenplay by Bertram Millhauser, Charles W. Goddard, George B. Seitz
    Directed by George B. Seitz
    Starring Arnold Daly as CRAIG KENNEDY
    With Creighton Hale as Walter Jameson
    Also starring Pearl White, Lionel Barrymore, Warner Oland
  • THE CARTER CASE
    (1919, Oliver Films)
    Silent, 15-part serial
    Based on stories by Arthur B. Reeve
    Screenplay by John W. Grey, Arthur B. Reev
    Directed by Donald MacKenzie
    Starring Herbert Rawlinson as CRAIG KENNEDY
    With William Pike as Walter Jameson
    Also starring Marguerite Marsh, Ethel Grey Terry, Kempton Greene, Coit Albertson, Joe Smith Marba
  • THE MASTER MYSTERY
    (1919, Octagon)
    Silent
    Original screenplay by Arthur B. Reeve & Charles A. Logue
    Directed by Burton King & E. Douglas Bingham
  • THE MYSTERY MIND
    (1920, Supreme)
    Silent
    Original screenplay by Arthur B. Reeve & John W. Grey
    Directed by Fred W. Sittenham & William S. Davis
  • THE RADIO DETECTIVE
    (1926, Universal)
    Silent
    Based on the story by Arthur B. Reeve
    Screenplay by Karl Krusada
    Directed by William Crinley & William Craft
    Starring Jack Mower as CRAIG KENNEDY
  • THE CLUTCHING HAND
    (1936, Stage and Screen)
    Based on the novel by Arthur B. Reeve
    Screenplay by Louis D’Usseau & Dallas Fitzgerald
    Directed by Albert Herman
    Starring Jack Mulhall as CRAIG KENNEDY
    Kennedy’s only sound film

COMIC STRIPS

  • CRAIG KENNEDY
    (June 7-December 4, 1926, McNaught Syndicate)
    Written by Arthur B. Reeve
    Art by Harry J Fleming

    • “The Studio Mystery”
    • “The Green Curse”
    • “The White Hand”
    • “The Beauty Shop”
    • “Dead Men Tell Tales”
    • “The Mystery of the Gray Flapper”
    • “The Dream Murder”
    • “The Truth Drug”
    • “The Second-Hand Girl”
    • “The Hi-jackers”
    • “The Perfect Crime”
    • “Kidnaped!”
    • “The White Hand”
  • CRAIG KENNEDY
    (April 15-May 11, 1929, The Craig Kennedy Service)
    Written by Arthur B. Reeve
    Art by William B. Johnstone
    An oddity, for sure, but fun. Text heavy, and full of maps and diagrams describing the science behind Kennedy’s deductions, plus an “explanation” by Reeves that ran alongside the final strip in each story. The cartoonist Johnstone was best known for being the first to diagram football games showing every play for each team, and created the iconic cartoon character of a victimized who wore only a barrel held up by suspenders. He also co-wrote the first two Marx Brothers’ films: ‘Monkey Business’ (1931) and ‘Horse Feathers’ (1932).

    • “The Rothstone Murder”
    • “The Belwell Murder”
    • “The Murder of Love Nest Inn”
    • “The Ballroom Murder”

TELEVISION

  • CRAIG KENNEDY, CRIMINOLOGIST | Buy this DVD
    (1951, syndicated)
    26 30-minute episodes
    Produced by the Weiss Brothers
    Starring Donald Woods as CRAIG KENNEDY
    Set in the present in Los Angeles, this short-lived series had Kennedy employing all sorts gadgets to solve crimes.

RIYL

Respectfully submitted by Kevin Burton Smith, with special thanks to Matthias and Buddy for the initial spadework.

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